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Opinion and Editorial

Do we really need 12 years of schooling?

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori
Filed on April 6, 2020

(KT file photo)

In today's world, the accumulation of information does not create knowledge, but rather increases the burden on memory

Years ago, I was on a trip to South Korea. I was accompanied by a high-ranking educational official who too was an Arab. I asked him a question that seemed to surprised him. Why do our children have to spend 12 years in school? I mean, why exactly 12 years? The question was simple and intuitive, but the official did not have an answer. Sometimes, intuitive questions are more difficult to answer than, say, solve physics equations.
I posed the same question to educational officials on several occasions. Why 12 years of school? The response was always the same: Your question did not occur to us ever. No one seems to know the secret of number 12. Is it just a practice we have inherited, perhaps? What about the educational curricula? A lot of it just feels like a burden. If a student was asked to name the capital of Ivory Coast, he would resort to Google. He would do the same if asked about metallic and non-metallic elements! Nobody is likely to search through the books of geography and chemistry.
In today's world, the accumulation of information does not create knowledge, but rather increases the burden on memory. Information is important for life and progress. This does not apply to geography and history alone, but also mathematics. Is there anyone who uses applied calculus at work? If the answer is yes, then the number of these people would be very few. As for those who need statistics, their number would be high and would increase every day in the era of digital data.
The educational process has always been based on teaching what is already known; that is, things that have been tested and proven true. This educational system is a thing of the past; this was relevant when children lived a life similar to that of their parents. Nowadays, no one thinks that the future would be the same as present. We can easily predict that life will change dramatically in the future.
To sum up: The world today is moving towards an educational system that prepares generations to deal with the unknown, not the known. In the UAE, we are heading there. We are at the heart of knowledge transformations, and at its forefront.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Director General of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE 

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